The Namibian side of the Transfrontier Park is where you’ll find the second largest canyon in the world.
Space. Lots of it. Above, ahead and beneath. Standing at one of the lookout points at the edge of the Fish River Canyon you will catch your breath at the sight of such incredible vastness: far below, immense gorges meander through the scenery of rock.
The Fish River Canyon is about 160 km long, up to 27 km wide and 500 m deep. Thus it is not only one of the three top attractions in Namibia, but it is also considered to be the second largest canyon on earth – after the Grand Canyon in the US.
Just as impressive as the Fish River Canyon's dimensions is the chronometry of its formation. About 350 million years ago the earth's surface caved in along cracks in its crust and a rift valley with a width of 20 km emerged. It still is recognisable today. The Fish River chose the rift for its bed. Due to the low gradient the river meandered through the valley in wide loops. But when the ancient southern continent of Gondwana disintegrated 120 million years ago, the rims of the African fragment were lifted and the altitude in relation to the sea level rose.
Starting from its mouth, the Gariep (Orange) River dug deeper into the earth. The Fish River, as a tributary of the Orange River, followed suit. Thus its shallow meandering riverbed turned into today's winding system of gorges.
As is typical for Namibia, the Fish River is a seasonal river which only carries water after rainfalls in its catchment area. This occurs during a few weeks each year, usually between January and April, and in some years not at all. The famous canyon is located downriver. It cuts through a seemingly endless, stony semi-desert, dominated by shades of brown and beige which are only occasionally interrupted by green euphorbia or tall quiver trees.
EXPERIENCE THE CANYON:
You can drive to several lookout points (about 20 km from the accommodation facilities of Gondwana Cañon Park), or walk along the rim of the enormous gorge, or take a scenic flight. Please take note that day visitors are not allowed to climb down into the canyon. There have already been several fatal accidents involving holidaymakers. If you ignore the ban you are in for a N$ 300 fine and you will be seriously putting your life at risk.
Hiking the Canyon:
Hundreds of hikers are drawn to this ancient, stark canyon every year. Only participants of the 80 km hiking tour from Hiker’s Point to Ai-Ais are permitted to climb down into the canyon.
The tour takes four to five days and can either be done in a private group (medical certificate required, minimum three participants, bookings at Namibia Wildlife Resorts) or with a guide (medical certificate required, bookings at 'Trailhopper'). Canyon hikes can only be booked for the cooler winter months (mid-April to mid-September). more info on the hike